On 28 January, 21-year-old Ruramai Muropa (not her real name) together with a dozen other young ladies queued at Harare International Airport’s departures desk waiting for their turn to have their travelling documents checked before boarding a plane to Kuwait.
Whilst there, a lady, in a subtle voice, kept reciting the instructions she had been lecturing to the young ladies the whole day about the procedure they were supposed to follow upon arrival in the oil-rich country.
Due to excitement Ruramai, just like the other girls, wasn’t paying much attention, it was the happiest moment of her life as her dream of living and working in a foreign country was finally coming true.
After all the paper work was finalised, Ruramai boarded the plane with pride, recalling the time when she had visited almost every building on the streets of Harare looking for a job without success.
A sense of accomplishment and relief must have manifested with a smile as she took her seat on the plane.
A new start had dawned, it was a greener field and at that moment it seemed so real.
Sadly, Ruramai did not know that the worst nightmare of her life was to unfold upon setting her feet in the “promised land”.
On arrival, her belongings and particulars where confiscated.
At that point, she realised that if she had paid attention to the strict instructions earlier on, she would have picked the cracks.
She and 10 other girls were being sold into servitude.
After being forced to work as a labourer at a number of houses and resisting, Ruramai is now being held hostage in Kuwait.
The Sunday Mail Extra caught up with the girl’s mother and eventually got into contact with Ruramai via WhatsApp.
She has been allowed access to her phone so that she can get her family to raise $3 000 for her release.
Speaking from a place called Hawali, where she is being held at a unidentified location, she – through telephone interviews and the WhatsApp messages – gave a narrative of what she is going through.
“I came here through Josephine Gondwa and her son Tonderai Gondwa and was led by a lady called Tinashe Nyahondo. She is the one who recruited me and she promised me that I will be working as a waitress,” she said.
“However, when I got here I was a housemaid and my job was to look after a 79-year-old woman who suffered a stroke on her left side. She was difficult to handle as she together with her children always shouted at me, would beat me and threw objects at me. I never had time to eat or sleep.
“I then used a phone belonging to a certain Cameroon maid who lived in the same area to contact Nyahondo but she gave me a cold shoulder. The woman continued to abuse me and one day she pushed me, I fell and broke my right knee.
“I called Nyahondo again and complained but there was no action and I decided to run away with my broken knee to reach to the police with the help of a certain Arabic lady.”
“I explained to the police how I came here and they took me to the agent whom they say is the one who brought me here.”
Ruramai said she had never heard of the agent.
She fears that she may be sold if her family fails to raise the money that is being demanding.
“At the moment, I am with the agent and he is claiming that he is the one who paid for my trip so he will not let me go until the money ($3 000) is paid.
“I don’t have the money and my family doesn’t have that kind of money,” she said.
“We are not being given enough food here and we are harassed and beaten all the time. As we speak, my leg is broken but I’m not receiving any medical attention because we are always locked up.
“The man gave my family three days to pay the money or he will sell me or do worse,” said Ruramai on Thursday afternoon.
She said she is lucky not to have been sexually abused. She, however, said she has had to endure harsh conditions.
“There is a room . . . we all sleep there . . . and the room is infested with bedbugs and sometimes we eat but if there is nothing, we just sit and we look at each other until they want to give us food.”
Fortunately, Ruramai said she has managed to get in touch with the Zimbabwean Embassy in Kuwait and they are now communicating with the agent to organise her release.
“I am so scared, I want to come back home, please help me I am suffering,” she said.
However, a man called Andre Baba, through an audio he sent to Ruramai’s family, vowed that the only way she will be released is through paying the required money.
“Your sister cannot come home, no one can help her, and (the) Zimbabwean Embassy cannot help because the law here says she has to go to jail so you have to pay. It’s either you pay the money or she goes back to work or to jail.”
Ruramai’s mother in Chitungwiza Unit N, said she is emotionally and physically distraught.
She declined having her name or pictures published for fear of victimisation.
“Mai Gondwa came here and asked if my daughter would be interested in going to Dubai. She (Ruramai) was interested to go and work since she was failing to get employment here.
“She once worked as a waitress at a local restaurant so Mai Gondwa said that would be her job in Dubai. After that, she gave her a number of a lady called Tinashe.”
Following her communication with Tinashe, the Ruramai’s paper work was processed quickly with police clearance, a medical report and a visa being arranged in a matter of days.
Ruramai’s mother said she got suspicious when her daughter got a Kuwait visa, instead of Dubai. The speed in which the visa was processed also worried her. However, she let it pass since she wanted the best for her daughter.
“After everything was finalised, they told us that she was going to leave on January 28. On the day, we accompanied her to the airport and that was the last time we saw her. Days later, she called me and told me that everything that she had been promised were all lies. She told me that she was looking after some disabled old woman.
“She said the woman was difficult to handle and that she was being abused. I then called Tinashe, telling her about my daughter’s situation but she became confrontational, saying that by running away from that job, my daughter had committed a crime.
“She said all sorts of bad stuff and told me that ‘your daughter has bad fortune’. I went to Mai Gondwa and told her that my child was suffering but both Mai Gondwa and her son did not give me convincing answers.”
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Joey Bimha, said the Zimbabwean Embassy is doing everything it can to assist Ruramai and the other girls.
“At the moment, the embassy is preparing a report on the number of people affected and how they can be helped. With our guidance, they are doing their best to resolve the matter immediately,” he said.
Seven people believed to be behind the human trafficking syndicate appeared in court last week. They are currently out on bail.